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Fiction – Ruth’s Story #22 Slowly leaving Seattle before the military blows up the I5 bridges

March 14, 2012

While I consider Rick’s question, I am amazed at the sheer number of abandoned vehicles, some burning, and the amount of debris left in the highway. If I did not have the snow plow with me there would be no way I could have driven out of Seattle.

The slow steady bump and grind of the snow plow in front of me pushing cars out of the way is mildly reassuring. Occasionally Rick has to reverse the snow plow and shimmy around a few times to get through certain clogged areas.

Transit buses, lorrys and bigger delivery trucks give us the most pauses as they are heavy enough to challenge the power of the snow plow. We usually have to go around the heavier vehicles Rick choosing the route carefully from his elevated perch in the driver’s seat of the snow plow.

Occasionally Rick has to stop the snow plow and climb on top shading his eyes with his hands to survey the best route to attempt. So far we have been fortunate and have not had any major mechanical issues with the snow plow but it was not designed for this amount of abuse. I worry that it is merely a matter of time before Rick breaks something vital on the plow.

We end up driving in the median a lot and through several of what Rick explains are the gore zone, gore area or gore points on the road, the often triangular piece of land found where roads merge or split.

Eventually we attract many vehicles following our progress taking advantage of the path that the snow plow clears. Most of the walking crowd also follows in our path. We soon have a very eclectic procession going north on I5 the likes of which probably have never been seen before.

We left most of the walking crowd behind us a few miles back, but continue to pass large groups walking north. The crowds are walking down the highway between the abandoned cars. Daredevils on motorcycles and the super rare bicycle whip between the cars like suicide jockeys.

I would say there are probably several thousand people walking north on I5. We pass various camps strategically located under overpasses and bridges. Some of these camps are a bustling center of activity with some people moving around cooking food or washing clothing. A few of the camps boast heavily armed guards conspicuously standing watch on the perimeter, giving everyone the evil eye.

Some of these camps, however, are real ghost towns, with smoldering fires, seemingly abandoned tents, and refuse strewn everywhere by the myriad of crows and ravens lurking over everything.

The smell of burning wood and trash mixed with human excrement and untold thousands of unwashed bodies assault the sinuses. The sides of the roadway are the new toilet. Heaps of rubbish and piles of waste lay uncovered attracting billions of flies that swarm around in a wild concert landing on everything.

I finish my cigarette as we head north, the smell of the cigarette helping to conceal the odiferous air. I throw the still flaming cigarette butt out the window and roll it up leaving about an inch gap. The fresh air feels fabulous.

We still pass the wandering occasional zombie, but these are infrequent and for the most part easily avoided. Even Rick in the towering snow plow avoids the walking zombies, no point in hitting them unless it is unavoidable.

We are also continually passed by zipping motorcyclists on every conceivable type of motorcycle. Speed appears to be the name of their game, as all seem to be running near or at wide open throttle.

Near the Boylston Avenue exit, we saw the remains of a motorcyclist that must have hit one of the wandering zombies at an impressive rate of speed. The remains of the bike, its cargo, the zombie and the rider are strewn all over the asphalt for nearly a quarter of a mile. The rider and the zombie are both red, bloody lumpy smears on the road, interspersed with chunks of the bike.

Maybe some of the vultures will look around to see if any of the rider’s possessions survived the crash. Just as, that thought crosses my mind, I hear the brakes lock on the snow plow, and it comes to a screeching smoking stop tossing the riders in the back around.

I slam on my own brakes sending my pistol and my two M67 frag grenades flying underneath the dash on the passenger floor board followed by my half empty bottle of water.

Several vehicles behind us are not so quick to make the stop and I hear a few impacts but nothing that sounded too serious.

Harah! I scream momentary lapsing into Hebrew which I do when stressed. Just as I am wondering what the fuck is going on Rick leaps out of the snow plow to run across the highway like a mad man.

After a brief battle with something on the road, he comes back clutching a dripping black leather gun belt and a relatively scuffed and battered stainless steel lever action rifle with a black Picatinny rail and an Aimpoint sight.

He walks back to my driver’s door carrying his booty. I see the shell loops of the gun belt are about half full and a leather butt cuff on the rifle holds nine cartridges.

“It’s a little beat up, but the scope still seems to work on this rifle,” Rick tells me.

Putting my car in park, I get out and stand. It feels fantastic to stretch after sitting for so long. The late afternoon air is refreshing and feels fantastic.

“Let me see” I told him while holding my hands out.

Rick wordlessly hands me the lever action Marlin rifle, and I take it from him and turn on the Aimpoint Micro T-1 red dot sight.

“Rick, this is a sight as it does not have any magnification, so it’s not a scope,” I tell him.

The red dot in the scope lights up and although a little battered and scuffed does not seem much worse for the wear it has been subjected to. I note the little Marlin rifle is chambered in .357 Magnum. I rack the slide and ensure that it is loaded with one in the chamber and the safety off.

I cannot determine if the Aimpoint sight is still sighted in and it might have gotten knocked off in the wreck. I consider the black leather gun belt that Rick is holding carries .357 Magnum rounds. I count 23 rounds on the belt.

Just as I am contemplating asking Rick to trade me the rifle for the pistol a zombie stands up on the other side of the highway. Without a second thought, I bring the rifle up and center the red dot on the zombie’s head.

The crack of the rifle startles Rick, and I watch with satisfaction as the zombie’s head whips back with the impact of the bullet. As the zombie crumbles to the asphalt, I rack the lever action remembering the feel of the infamous “Marlin trigger slap” when I squeezed the trigger. The Marlin had it been my rifle would have gone to the gunsmith for a trigger job.

After turning the Aim Point off I nonchalantly give Rick the rifle and grab the gun belt from his lax fingers.

He is still staring at me, as I realize the holster contains an older three-screw Ruger Blackhawk also chambered in .357 Magnum with a four inch barrel. The bluing on the pistol is a little thin, and the pistol butt took the brunt of the damage from the wreck, but the pistol looks to be in decent shape.

I draw the pistol from the belt and flip the loading gate open. Never been terribly fond of single action revolvers, but you cannot be picky right now. I see the Ruger pistol is fully loaded with six cartridges. Not sure if that is a fantastic idea or not although these newer pistols have a hammer safety that is supposed to prevent the hammer if struck from falling on the cartridge.

“I saw the pistol and rifle laying there in the road, and I guess we could use them” Rick tells me.

“Yeah they could certainly come in handy since the gun that woman has only four rounds left in it” I tell him. “Both pistols and the rifle use the same caliber making logistics easier” I continue. “You should take the Marlin rifle and the Ruger pistol” I tell him.

“I was going to” he says, “But I wanted to make sure it was OK with you first. I wanted you to look at the guns to make sure they were OK after the wreck.”

“Yeah they seem fair” I say “Let’s get out of here before more zombies come along attracted by that shot.” With that, I give him back the pistol belt after sliding the pistol back in the holster.

Rick nods his head at me. With both weapons, Rick runs back to the snow plow jumping in. There is a brief pause I suppose while Rick talks to the woman with the S&W 686 pistol as I get back into my little car. Both vehicles were left idling, and as I sit in the seat putting the seat belt on out of habit I wonder what our hold up is when I hear the air brakes on the snow plow release and the whine of the engine as we take off.

Passing the highway 520 exit we see several military vehicles blocking the exit. There are hundreds of soldiers and military vehicles parked in the grassy area between the highways. A veritable military tent city exists erected among the trees and on the grass between the off ramp and the highway. We have not seen this many soldiers since crossing the last bridge.

We do not stop to talk nor investigate. We follow the enthusiastic hand signals of a soldier standing beside the road continuing our journey.

Passing the Roanoke Street overpass, we encounter another boiling mass of humanity and traffic slows to a crawl. This massive exodus horde blocks the highway choking the only road north.

Thankfully the sheer massive size of the snow plow allows us to squeeze through, but I am fearful of my little car. As we crawl along, I make sure to retrieve my pistol and frag grenades from the floor of the passenger seat and keep them handy.

As we pass, I see a large collection of military and FEMA tents around the Washington State Patrol building on Roanoke. Some fool with a loud horn is attempting to get people to orderly and calmly proceed north.

I cannot see anything swamped as I am with people on all sides of me. I watch my rear hatch just in case someone attempts to hitch a ride and keep my pistol in my right hand.

Rick’s voice comes over the radio telling me that we are about half way through this mess when I hear two things behind us almost simultaneously. The first sound to reach my ears was the rapid firing of military weapons, including the rapid scream of at least one mini gun. The next sound was several thousand people screaming zombies at the top of the lungs.

What was once a slowly milling crowd generally headed north has now become a panicked unthinking mob. Untold numbers of people are crushed as drivers of other vehicles plow through the crowd seeking refuge. The crowd mows under those unable to remain upright the downtrodden to fall most stomped into oblivion.

As the crowd disperses into a shrieking wide spread mob, the Army soldiers give up any pretense of control. The unthinking panicked mob spreads out over both sides of the highway attempting to get away from the horde of undead now revealed to the south east.

While several of the soldiers are still firing their weapons, the occasional zombie that they kill barely makes a dent in the total number. Where this walking wave of undead comes from I do not know, but we need to get out of here and away from this group because it will attract more zombies like it already has.

I get on the compact Motorola radio and tell Rick that we need to pick up the pace. The zombies are slowly closing the gap between the panicked crowd and us. The soldiers are pinched between us and the zombies.

Part of the mob ran for the assumed shelter of the soldiers, but they succeeded in confusing the situation more, and many of the crowd were shot by panicked soldiers. Once the soldiers started shooting mob members the mood turned against the soldiers and many soldiers were swamped by the crowd and died under the mob’s feet. The soldiers were now shooting zombies and panicked mob members without distinction.

While the soldiers and the crowd fought, the zombies united in purpose continued to reduce the distance, consuming those few unfortunates that fell into their grasps.

Rick picks the tempo up using the snow plow to bulldoze through the crowd. As I am driving along some ass hole, shoves his head and shoulders into the gaping hole through my rear hatchback where the rear window used to be.

I use my pistol in my left hand and do my best Annie Oakley over my left shoulder and shoot him once in the side of the head. Following the snow plow, his dead body falls to lie in the highway.

Suddenly Rick’s voice comes over the radio starling me, “Well that shoots that idea because I was thinking we could stay at the Roanoke office for the night.”

Not quite sure what Rick meant, but he is right that we still need to find shelter for the night. The sun is starting to go down, and I do not want to meet zombies in the dark.

I get the Motorola radio “Rick I do not think that stopping in one of these camps is going to be a fantastic idea either” I tell him. I have seen the result of FEMA camps, and they are death traps of despair and best avoided if you have the wherewithal.

We pass some makeshift, blue-tarp tent cities situated along the side of the highway. The blue-tarp tents are usually situated under overpasses, bridges and elevated highway decks.

Rick’s voice comes back over the radio “The WSDOT used to have a hell of a time keeping the homeless from camping where all these folks are camping now. So there is a long tradition of people camping in these areas. They are probably no safer now though then they were back then.”

“Yeah so what are we going to do?” I ask Rick. I mentally imagine Rick shrugging his shoulders.

We have been making pretty decent time northbound as we are talking. Rolling along we come into another pack of military vehicles manning a military blockade looks the same as the last bridge we were crossed.

This time the soldiers are not even making a pretense of stopping traffic or checking vehicles. I stick another soldier-baiting smoke in my mouth and light it with my Zippo. Let us see if I can get lucky again.

Sure enough a short, slender dusky soldier starts walking towards my driver’s door. This guy’s skin is quite a bit darker than mine but not black, I am guessing Eastern Indian. I am surprised to see that instead of the usual Kevlar helmet of some kind he wears a wider, more dome-shaped Kevlar helmet in the old desert MARPAT (MARine PATtern) camo that matches his MARPAT uniform.

I see a tremendous, curved damn large knife with about a two-foot thick, curved blade on his left hip that is unquestionably a Kuhkri with its corresponding smaller knives, so I am betting he is a Ghurka. Indian, no I realize as he gets closer, a British Army Special Forces soldier. I see this soldier also wears the distinctive emblem of the British SAS. He takes a knee beside my door, evocative of the last soldier who did so.

The Ghurka (I got to remember they prefer Gorkha now) is carrying some AK-variant rifle, also underslung with what looks to be an ex-Soviet GP-25 40mm grenade launcher. By the barrel and magazine of the soldier’s AK, I am guessing it to be chambered in 5.56 NATO. An unfamiliar halo-style optical sight rides on a rail floating over the top of his AK. The rail is mounted with a typical AK-style side mount on the left side of the receiver.

The light desert tan plastic furniture of his AK shows some abuse, the rifle bluing is thin in places, and as the breeze wafts over us, I can smell the fresh gun oil on his rifle. The folding stock on his rifle is fully extended, the rifle hanging by a two point sling over his right shoulder. I see the glint of a gold wedding ring on his left hand, the gold contrasting with his dark skin.

His web gear carries an assortment of 40mm grenades as well as twelve magazines for his AK. The soldier does not carry a sidearm or any other grenades on his person that I see. His ponderous assault pack is stuffed and hangs off his back.

“Lady you must be hurrying across the bridge, because the planes are already flying and will shoot this bridge in about twenty minutes,” he tells me with a strong Nepalese accent. “I do not think the other soldiers are caring what happens to the peoples on the bridge when the planes blow it up. Please get across in a dreadful hurry lovely lady.”

“What is a Ghurka doing here?” I ask him while exhaling from a long drag on my cigarette.

“I was being training with the American 1st Special Forces Group when the zombies came. I was unable to return to England, so here I am being” he says. “You better get moving lady, if you are following that truck.”

With that, he regains his feet and smiles at me showing an impressive and dazzling array of some of the whitest teeth I have ever seen.

Just as, he steps away we hear several loud explosions behind us, and a large cloud of fire and smoke rises into the air. Everything comes to a screeching halt as all eyes dead and alive suddenly stop to look south, where the bridges behind us are being systematically blown up.

After a few second pause that feels like forever, suddenly everyone is scrambling across the bridge accompanied by a lot of screaming and profanity.

I see that Rick is forcing the snow plow as far forward as he can, while whaling on the horn. People scramble to get out of the way of the mad man in the snow plow. Mad man or idiot does not matter because the gargantuan snow plow manages to clear a path for us.

Any abandoned cars blocking our progress Rick smashes out of the way with the snow plow. The desperate previous owners of the abandoned vehicles attempt escape on foot somehow thinking that would be quicker than staying in the car. In the car, you have the bulk of the vehicle to force your way through the crowd.

This bridge is not as organized as the last one we crossed; shot zombies or zombie snack lay where they fell. Mixed in with the fallen dead is many that have been trampled by the mob, some more dead than others.

I try not to think too much about the poor souls as the snow plow smears some of these unfortunates into a bloody pulp that oozes into and around the cracks on the bridge deck. The crunching of the bones between the heavy truck tires and the bridge is gruesome, and I gag at the sound.

Thankfully the screaming of these smeared unfortunates is drowned by the general roar of thousands of terrified people running across the bridge. Both sides of the bridge span are packed with a mass crowed of humanity, cars, trucks and every type of conveyance known to man attempting to cross.

As we pass over the crest of the bridge, six F-16s bellies carrying large drop tanks and wings heavy with long white pointy missiles fly over us in a wedge formation. I am familiar a little with the American F-16 as the IDF Air Force still flies quite a few of them.

The planes were extremely low, and if it were not for the high tension power lines nearby probably would have been lower. The arrival of the planes caused increased panic and what were already a deadly unthinking mob, turns into a mass of confused panicked and desperate people determined to survive no matter the cost.

Children are dropped forgotten and trampled under the mob, and those too weak or sick to keep up with the mob are left behind to fend for themselves. Some poor souls give up and sit on the bridge curb awaiting oblivion.

Several desperate people attempt to climb into the dump bed of the plow, but they are beaten off by the current occupants who are armed with various garden hand tools such as rakes, shovels, hoes, and a potato fork. An older Hispanic man looking like a member of a road crew dressed in day-glow yellow rain gear wields a wicked-looking double bit axe. Through all of this Rick manages to push the snow plow through the crowd.

A young mother tossed her blue-fabric swaddled infant into the bed of the dump truck to be caught by the young African American couple. I have watched these two young persons care for their baby (not sure of the sex) since I have been following the snow plow. The young mother is still nursing her baby, and I have watched the man give all his food and water to the mother to keep her strong and her milk flowing for their child.

Now the young mother has a Caucasian and an African American baby at each breast. Her kindness is astounding considering the unlikelihood of her and her child’s survival. Now the young couple has a second child to care and feed. While I applaud their generosity and selfless act it may doom them for a slow, lingering death of starvation.

As we clear the bridge and most of the panicked mob, the six F-16s make a second pass. I hope the soldiers have managed to stop the flow of evacuees. Once everyone has cleared the bridge choke point is now running for safety away from the bridge. Every manner of conveyance roars down the still heavily blocked road heading for the perceived safety of the north.

As we drive away, I see the F-16s make a third pass. Is there going to be a fourth pass I wonder?

  1. Mudd permalink

    Very good story, don’t get to detailed .

  2. John permalink

    Great segment! Lots of action and gun talk. One continuity error, the lady riding with Rick originally had a SW 686 357 magnum in an earlier segment and not a 629 which is a 44 magnum.

    Still looking forward to what treasures Ruth will find in those two assault backpacks that she picked up after driving out of the airport.

  3. BobOK permalink

    I’m hooked.
    Eagerly awaiting MORE!!!

  4. Sniff


  5. John permalink

    I’m dying here when is my next fix?! =)

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